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Becoming a film maker - Taking the “Im” out of Impossible
by Startacus Admin
Hasraf Haz Dulull has spent years at various visual effects facilities and studios internationally working on various big blockbuster feature films, award winning Commercials and Television and Broadcast series. He has been employed as a Visual Effects Artist and later moved up to Visual Effects Supervisor which resulted in him being nominated for several Visual Effects Society (VES) awards.
Hasraf talked to Startacus about what empowered him to take the step into making his very own (and cracking) short film ‘Fubar Redux’ which was released in April this year.
“I grew up watching movies from VHS tapes, TV to DVDs and Cinema; I was hooked on the movie experience since a child. I remember watching Aliens and Blade-runner and was totally blown away and knew that one day I wanted to make films, but films which took audiences away into another world and be mesmerised by the experience – escapism.
At that same time video games were becoming more popular and they were telling stories in a different way, they were allowing the audience to interact with the stories which I also found very compelling, and like many artists during that time – knew that one day the line will blur between games and films.
My first route into the world of CGI (computer generated imagery) was in video games, I created cinematic cut scenes (the stuff you used to see on adverts with a disclaimer saying “not in game footage” and was moving virtual cameras around and helping tell exciting stories.
I remember while working in video games and doing these cool cinematic scenes but saying to myself – why am I ‘emulating’? If I want to work in films why don’t I just work in films! Games cinematic were great but that was my foot in the door into the CGI industry. But back then it was not as easy as it is now to move from Games CG work to Feature film VFX, so I got several rejections saying my work needed more integration of CG with live action as apposed to all CG, I needed to pick a route / specialise rather than do it all etc.
I used those rejections as opportunity to hear what I could do better, or what I was missing, I took those criticisms and feedback very seriously. A few months later I went back to the same studios and showed them my new reel and I ended up working in Feature films and started off as a Rotoscope artist to junior compositor, senior compositor, lead compositor, compositing supervisor to VFX Supervisor over the years. It was hard work but I loved it, and I got to work with amazing artists, directors, producers and studios and learned so much from that experience.
Leaving the games industry, to join the freelance world in visual effects, was scary, but scary as it seemed, it only took a few projects in for me to get used to it and understand that you are only as good as your last job / project. So every project I was always upping my game and standards and took on more challenges rather than do the same thing again and again but in different studios.
This was one of the big advantage of going out there as a freelancer, I was able to pick and choose projects and negotiate my day rate and conditions and also self promote my self with online show-reels and articles on work I had done featured in magazines like 3D world and VFX forums online etc. Like I said, Freelancing is pretty much running a one-man business – YOU are the company.
One big advice I would give anyone starting out on their own is that don’t take rejection personally. If you contact a studio and they turn you down, look at it as you now have a contact and reply back saying not a problem but would love to stay in touch. Later, you could email them updating them on what you have done and achieved and it wouldn’t be seen as cold calling as you have already made that connection with them. The other Tip I would say is social media – use it as your tool! LinkedIn is fantastic for building up your contacts and creating relationships and you can do all that on your iPhone / blackberry etc. these days while on the train, bus, on the toilet seat etc.
Also have an online presence in the form of a website, these days it doesn’t cost a fortune to do one and in fact you don’t actually need a website as such, you can use blogging such as Tumblr or wordpress as a way to have online presence and present information about your services. You can also buy a domain name and have it point to the blog page. In my case I use my website to show examples of work I have done and is great as a central place for all my information, show reel and latest work etc. allowing me to work anywhere in the world and pitch ideas via my iPad or laptop with a web connection.
It was when I became a Visual Effects Supervisor a few years back working closely with the client (directors, writers, DOPs and producers) and observing how they work, that I realised that I should go ahead and make my first film as a director, and a short film was the way to do it. I didn’t want to go down the route of film financing through funding schemes by Film Council or government grants as I knew my film idea would not get funded as I wanted to make a very big, commercial type film which would be seen as very ambitious.
So I self funded it by putting money aside from my freelance work and later on used some crowd source funding (this is the future of all projects in my opinion) via Kick-starter to fund the Audio, sound design and additional support I needed to finish the film, I didn’t need much funding since I was doing all the VFX and animation, production myself, I just needed it for things I couldn’t do.
I wanted to make a film which reflected Hollywood blockbuster written all over it, it had to be loud, exciting and above all different from what’s out there in terms of British short films. I knew I could do it as I now have years of experience in the visual effects world working on those big films, that I knew exactly how I was going to make it happen in my East London Flat on a single Mac Pro machine and a lot of drive and passion but most of all have fun with it. The result was Fubar Redux.
Fubar Redux is an Epic Short Film portraying the atrocities of an on-going political war for territories. Told in an alternate reality with Cats and Dogs mixing exciting action with tense drama driven by a unique animation visual style - Hyper-Motion Comic Cinema. Since its release in April 2012 it has gained great exposure on Vimeo and other film blog sites, screened at major festivals world wide including Cannes, FMX 2012 and Phoenix Comic Con 2012. I have even gained new business opportunities with this project too. I am currently developing it into a fully animated feature film to gain studio interests.
Please take 15 minutes out to take a look at Fubar Redux and we hope you agree that Hasraf’s story is an interesting and motivating account of how to turn ones interest into a possible opportunity and career. Startacus wishes Hasraf all the best going forward.